Review: The Rewinder Trilogy *****

Regular readers will have figured out by now that I am a big fan of time-travel fiction. College buddy Ken Isaacson recommended the Brett Battles Rewinder trilogy: Rewinder, Destroyer and Survivor.

I ran through all three pretty quickly. One and two were fantastic. I couldn’t put them down, despite the fact that they messed with world timelines and personal timelines in a way that made my head spin, made me lose track of who was who, and made me entertained by that confusion.

I confess the third book in the series dragged in the middle, but the superbly satisfying ending made up for it.

Review: Silent Counsel ****

 I just spent the last hour speeding through the last fourth of this book, desperate to find the resolution, which was clever beyond my imagining. Since I don’t do spoilers, I won’t reveal it.

Normally I am fairly leisurely in reading novels; I intersperse them with magazines and games on my phone. For the last week, my first priority every day was to read a few pages of Silent Counsel. To say I couldn’t put it down is no exaggeration.

Once again, Isaacson explains complex issues in an intelligible way, intersperse with inspired (and sometimes scary) plot elements. If you don’t know what attorney-client privilege is, this book will show you. I suspect Isaacson was merely applying his decades of experience as a lawyer.

And this time, he explains a complex technical issue, IP addresses, in a few short, clear paragraphs. Once again, probably not research but a residue of his MIT education.

Two small knocks cut this from five stars to four: I hate child in peril situations. I know a novel needs conflict, but please try to find some other source. Second, I don’t feel any reasonably well-informed adult who has watched any legal drama on TV hasn’t been exposed to attorney-client privilege, the lynchpin in this novel. The plot requires one of the main non-lawyer characters to demonstrate total unfamiliarity with the idea. Yes, she’s terribly upset, but still…

 Review: Death Benefit ***** by Ken Isaacson

 Review: Death Benefit *****
by Ken Isaacson

Confession: I knew Ken Isaacson at MIT.

Dialog and description: impressive. Plotting: clever. Characterization: sufficient for me to distinguish the characters.  Often authors (particularly historical fiction, which I know this isn’t) are so proud of their research that they flaunt it gratuitously. Isaacson avoided that trap while teaching me enough about the viaticle industry to follow the story. I especially enjoyed the multiple twist endings.

There are two books in this series: Silent Counsel gets reviewed next week.

Between Ken and H. Claire Taylor, I am eliminating my prejudice against self-published Amazon books. Apparently, authors of great talent, unable to squeeze through the publishing company filter, can now share great books.

Book Review: Luck Off and Fly

The latest installation of H. Claire Taylor’s comedy science fiction series, Luck Off and Fly, is another impressive piece of work. And that is a definition of impressive with which I WAS previously familiar. Luck, the incompetent Texan thrown into a leadership position for which she is clearly unqualified, continues to muddle through somehow, just as she did in her third Sophomore Year at the UT in Austin. Somehow she ends up on a planet where everyone looks like an ex-boyfriend of hers. Improbable? Blame it on the improbability waves. An enjoyable and entertaining excursion through worlds of imagination, filled with colorful characters and bizarre aliens.

Fabulous Writer: H. Claire Taylor

Run, don’t walk, to this woman’s Amazon page and buy everything she has ever written. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: most self-published Kindle books aren’t worth the electrons they are written on. H. Claire Taylor is a prominent exception.

In terms of wit, talent, style and writing ability, she is a worthy successor to Douglas Adams in the relatively narrow field of Comic Science Fiction with her Alice Luck series. Admittedly, she does seem to channel Adams now and then, but perhaps the range of tropes available in this genre is limited. Or great minds thing alike. In any case, Adams is no longer with us and Taylor is.

She has three series, all of them excellent: 7 Jessica Christ books, 4 Kihaven police books, and 5 Alice Luck books, the latest being Luck Off and Fly. My rave review of that book will be forthcoming soon, but I simply felt it was time to plug Taylor again, in general.

She calls her mailing list The New Collective, and provides both news of upcoming books and free short stories. She also rattles the cup now and then, but with no publisher providing fat advances, who can blame her?

Her website is not the easiest to navigate, but here is the link (Get A Story for Free) to sign up for her mailing list.

Hacking Reality

I’m not 100% sure that Rob Nelson is right about everything, but his book, Hacking Reality,  and its companion website, have had a profound effect on my life and those of others I know. I don’t know enough about quantum physics to judge that portion of the book. I am not even sure you can actually change your past in a way that also changes the past for others. But, for sure, his techniques can make it feel like you have changed the past, which, given its intangible nature, may be good enough. In my case, after I changed my past, I found written evidence, in my handwriting, in a contemporaneous document I’d just reviewed, that I’d never seen before and which supported the new scenario.

I also don’t know enough about Karma and reincarnation to score his scenario of pre-life planning, but it tickles me to imagine it’s true. He suggests that we go through one incarnation after another with the same souls; something of a repertory company. (A Buddhist friend tells me this concept is not alien to his faith tradition) Prior to your birth, the group meets and assigns roles. “I’ll sit this one out.” “I’ll be the father.” “I’ll be the lover that jilts him,” “I’ll meet him in college,” and so on.

Book Review:  Lucky Stars

This book had me at H. Claire Taylor. She is the remarkable author of the Jessica Christ books and the Kilhaven Police books. She is dramatically reinforcing my opinion that women write the best comic novels.

Although I could put the book down now and then to eat and answer nature’s call, I read this 251-page volume in a single day. I’ve said before I can’t put into words what it is about a novel that compels me to consume it rapidly. I assume it is a combination of great writing, great plotting and humor. This book has all that.

Admittedly, she comes across a bit Douglas Adams-like in the early going; you almost expect Ford Prefect or Zaphod Beeblebrox to round the next corner. On the other hand, how many ways can you depict an alien abduction? Of a Texas A&M graduate with a degree in Animal Husbandry? How often will all the guns that appear in the first act go off in the third (literally)? It’s as if it was plotted that way. Uproarious, clever, compelling and a hoot to read.

Dan Grobstein recommends: Turn Every Page

Dan Grobstein, a long-time friend and long-time contributor, checks in:

 Turn Every Page – The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb this Sunday at 92nd St Y followed by a discussion with Caro and the two Gottliebs. Opens in NY and LA 12/30. A fascinating look at the writing and editing process and the interactions between them.

Sometimes, I admit, I miss having an editor. Probably my loyal readers would agree.

Review: Lessons in Chemistry ******



The stars next to the title are not a typo. It’s a six-star rating. This novel is one of the best I have ever read. It is vivid, well written, and has one of the finest and most satisfying endings ever. I’m so glad I didn’t read the end first, as I often do with novels. Lessons in Chemistry describes the travails faced by intelligent women in American during the 50s and 60s, in academia and at work.

Every type of torture of the intelligent woman that is described in this book is familiar to me, as a second-wave feminist. I could (but won’t) name women I know upon whom each of these indignities were visited, at MIT and life. Proud to say I never committed the worst of these crimes against women, and seldom committed the least of them.

And yet, it’s not a polemic. It’s a clever, witty book that includes passionate love and steadfast adherence to principals. And a few out-loud laughs. And enough metaphors to float a section of English Lit.

When I finished, I instantly Googled the author, Bonnie Garmus, so I could read her other works. Imagine my surprise to find that this is her debut novel. I am hoping and praying for more from her.